Conversations will win this referendum – and we need your help

Conversations are a really important campaigning tool - in the Irish abortion referendum, 39% of voters thought discussions with family, friends or workmates were the most influential factor in the final outcome.

No one knows how the cannabis referendum will go yet – the polls show the results will be close. So if you feel strongly that we need to win this referendum, get talking – at your workplace, at the gym, when you’re out with friends, or on your phone via messenger, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and wherever else you are active.

To win this, everyone needs to play their part. You can make a real impact by making the time to talk cannabis.

Getting started

Know your subject. Unless you’re already an expert, you might want to check out our Vote Cannabis page and FAQs.

Pick your moment. Often the best time for a conversation is while doing an activity - whether it’s the climbing wall or the bingo hall (actually, those might not work so well). Make sure everybody’s in a chilled mood before you start.

Start by listening 😊  It’s much easier to be convincing if you know where someone is coming from. They’ll no doubt have good reasons for whatever they already think about cannabis. 

Keeping it light

Keep calm and polite - always. If you end up red-faced and raving at the family BBQ, chances are that you won’t be having the convincing effect you were going for! So if you’re starting to grind your teeth, put on your smile and back off for now. Plenty of time to try again later…

Explore ideas together rather than telling people what they should think. Remember – it’s okay to not agree on everything. You’re mostly trying to get across that health-focused cannabis regulations can help reduce harm and protect people.

Focus on values

Work out which values are important to you both. For example, most people are keen to see New Zealanders healthier, and to protect young people from damaging themselves. And most people see themselves as compassionate, and are keen to do what works.

Build on those values to explain your point of view: “Minimising the harm that cannabis can cause is important to me too. And from what I’ve learned, regulating cannabis is the best way to stop some of the worst harms that cannabis can cause…”

People are more likely to be convinced of your point of view by realising they share the same values as you do than they are by a long list of facts and figures. Leading with your values can activate emotions and open an audience’s hearts and minds to the message you are trying to get across.

Remember that things are rarely black and white. You might share similar values – for example that we need to protect young people - but disagree on the solution. But you can talk through law reform options that address their concerns.

Choose arguments that are convincing

Every conversation will be a bit different. But based on our research, these are the messages that are most convincing to the middle voters who might swing either way at the referendum.

  1. Tax will be redistributed to public health and education programmes
    • We all want healthy and safe communities, where everyone who needs it can access help if they need it.
    • But too often health and education services are overwhelmed and underfunded. As a result, around 50,000 people in New Zealand want help for their drug use but aren’t getting it.
    • Regulating cannabis will mean as much as an $490 million in annual tax, including a specific cannabis levy that will be redistributed into reducing cannabis harm, and cannabis education programs that can benefit of all of us.
    • Voting YES in the cannabis referendum will help us look after those who are struggling with their cannabis use.

  2. Free up police time to focus on serious crime
    • We all want to live in safe communities where police can focus on serious crime.
    • Our drug laws currently focus on criminalising people for their drug use. As a result, the Police spend almost $200 million and over 330,000 hours on cannabis enforcement and convictions per year.
    • Regulating cannabis will mean fewer lives ruined by convictions, and Police will have more time to focus on serious crime.
    • Voting YES in the cannabis referendum will mean safer communities and fewer wasted resources

  3. Improving access to patients
    • As a society we value compassion and we don’t like to see people suffer for no reason.
    • Many patients rely on cannabis to deal with debilitating conditions, like seizures and chronic pain. While medicinal cannabis is now legal in New Zealand with a prescription, the scheme doesn’t work for most patients. There are only a few products available and it is extremely expensive, costing some people hundreds every month. Because of this, patients are forced to use illicit products for their health needs, putting them at risk of a conviction.
    • A legal cannabis market will mean more affordable access to a wider range of products.
    • Voting YES in the cannabis referendum means patients will be able to access the products that work for them without fear of prosecution.

  4. The Cannabis Legalisation Control Bill sets out strong public health controls over cannabis
    • We all want to live in a society where people are protected from the harms of cannabis.
    • But because of prohibition, the black market controls the cannabis supply. This means it’s impossible to have any public health controls over cannabis.
    • If we regulate cannabis:
      • we can put controls over potency levels, and have plain packaging with clear warning labels, and zero advertising
      • Only people 20 and older will be able to purchase
      • It will only be available to purchase at licences premises
      • there will be no public consumption or cannabis
    • Voting YES in the cannabis referendum will help create healthy and safe communities, where there are public health controls over cannabis. It will show we care enough to put healthy rules around harmful substances, and that we want to help people make good decisions about their lives.

  5. Righting the wrongs of prohibition
    • We all want to live in a fair and just society.
    • But under prohibition, some people are unfairly discriminated against, including young people and Māori. As a result, people under 30 make up 45% of people with a cannabis conviction, and Maori make up 41%.
    • Regulating cannabis will mean fewer young people and fewer Māori coming into contact with the criminal justice system and fewer trapped in endless cycles of re-conviction.
    • Voting YES in the cannabis referendum will mean improvements in health, justice, and economic development, especially for young people and Māori.

Download our conversation pack to help you have more effective conversations

Conversation challenge #1. Text: talk to your mum about voting yes

Get more detailed information on using conversations to win the cannabis referendum with our conversation pack. The pack includes:

  • A guide to making the most of person-to-person and digital conversations
  • A list of the key messages you’ll want to amplify
  • A flow chart so you can make the most of conversations with strangers
  • A list of FAQs to help you answer the curly questions

If you can’t find the information you need in the pack, head over to the Health Not Handcuffs Facebook page and ask for advice, or join our Vote Yes Campaign Volunteers Facebook page.

Download the conversation pack here!

Finally, always check that the person you are talking to is enrolled on the electoral role and planning to turn up to vote on or before 17 October. It’s super easy to enrol at